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Tuesday, 9 September 2003
Page: 19606

Ms KING (8:57 PM) —I want to take the opportunity this evening to join a number of speakers in this parliament who are concerned about the axing of Behind the News. Since the ABC went to air at 8 p.m. in 1932, it has been committed to providing educational programs for children. I am sure many people not only in my community but all the way across this country have fond memories of learning from the young team at Behind the News as they showed us the world in a language that we could understand. But Behind the News is no longer to be part of children's education in this country.

Whilst it is not appropriate for government to interfere in programming decisions taken by the ABC, the government must bear some responsibility for the financial pressure the ABC is under and subsequent decisions that the ABC has to take to cut programs. My office has been inundated by complaints from parents, teachers and kids about the axing of this popular program. I had the privilege of recently receiving a delegation from Pleasant Street Primary School, who handed me a petition from their colleagues in grades 5 and 6. The petition has already been tabled in parliament and the students have been very active in letting me know the importance with which they view Behind the News. Fifty-eight students signed the petition and, if time permits, I will read some of their names into Hansard at the end of my contribution.

I also received some 62 letters from the students of Haddon Primary School. The letters overwhelmingly spoke out against the cuts to funding to the ABC and the axing of Behind the News. Larissa wrote:

I am writing to you because the program Behind the News is being cut off because of Government spending. Myself and 62 other year 5/6s in our school look forward to it every week.

Another student, Jarrod, wrote:

I heard on the news that the government are pulling the plug on BTN. I don't want them to because it is a great program for kids who like to know what is going on around the world. Some guardians don't like their kids watching the news that adults watch. In BTN it doesn't have swearing in it. In adult news they have swearing and blood and guts. I will be appreciative if they don't cancel it.

Alanna wrote:

I wish to express my concern about the cutting of BTN next year. I am very disappointed because I enjoy watching the show because I hardly get to watch the news. The Government should consider the cutting because our “Education” is at risk.

Finally, another student wrote:

If the government cancels BTN lots of Australian kids won't be aware of what is happening in this world.

Perhaps, after all, that is what the government wants. The Howard government has mounted an unprecedented attack on the ABC, both through funding cuts and through a concerted campaign to stifle its independence. I will continue to work with schools, parents and teachers in fighting this issue.

As I have mentioned, I would like to include in Hansard some of the names of the 58 children at Pleasant Street Primary School who have petitioned me on this issue. They include Eleanor Sedgwick, Jessikah Wintle, Ross Ward, Bernadette Oliver, Emily McDonald, Mathew Eades, Helen Harrison, Sophie Macalister, Brooke Palmer, Nicky Barton, Eloise Hille, Tracey Stevens, Annie Sienesi, Helena Kazepis, Tom Nash, Allyson Hankin, Mostafa Alwan, Margaret Littlebales, Christine Christie and Matt Whitear.

Some of the students of Haddon Primary School have been very active in writing to me over this issue. They have also sent their 62 letters to the Prime Minister of Australia, letting him know very clearly that they do not want Behind the News cut. One letter states:

I'm writing to you because I'm concerned about the government cancelling Behind the News. The teachers at Haddon Primary School have acknowledged that Behind the News is a good educational show and is an excellent learning program for kids. We would like you to inform the government about our concerns.

Another letter states:

I'm writing because Behind the News is going to be cancelled and 61 kids and I are very disappointed because of that. If the government with its spending cuts has decided to cancel Behind the News, there won't be any kids news on TV, plus BTN is part of a way that kids can understand better. It's like current affairs for us kids. I'm saying please don't cancel BTN.

And I am certainly saying to the government that the ABC is a worthy institution in this country that has suffered enormously under the pressure of this government's funding cuts and also because of pressure in terms of its independence. This is what happens when governments cut funding to the ABC. News programs such as BTN are invaluable to our children's education and invaluable to the students at both Pleasant Street Primary School and Haddon Primary School. I certainly hope that the government reconsiders the way in which it behaves towards the ABC because our kids deserve BTN to be back on the air.